What Do (Australian) Producers Want?

“If a girl wants a kiss, she won’t ask for a Latte.” That’s what my uncle Raul used to say. May he rest in peace. This principle applies to everything in life, included screenplay marketing. You want a producer to read? Give them what they want.

-by Rodolfo Key & Karel Segers

Before endeavouring in the laudable task of writing the best script ever that will touch people’s hearts, that will get cynics to think there is good in the world, that will make ruthless dictators mend their ways and bring happiness to the oppressed spirits of modern society, perhaps you want to find out what type of stories production companies want to produce, do they want a kiss or a latte?

At some point you will be marketing your script and send it to producers. You can do this the dumb way and send an email and/or snail mail letter to every single production company of which you can lay your hands on the email address. Or you could work in a smarter, more targeted way. For this, you need to find out which producers are looking for which type of scripts.

In Australia, many writers start by contacting Screen Australia for a list of production companies. We did this work for you and collected the contact details of 35 companies, then contacted them to find out what it is they are looking for.

The  sobering outcome is below. Of the 35 production companies we contacted – emailed and reminded, phoned and re-phoned – we received a reply from thirteen (13). Two didn’t want to participate and wouldn’t even answer these simple, straightforward questions.

So this leaves us with eleven (11).

What did we ask? First we wanted to find out whether these companies accept unsolicited material, because if they don’t you can save yourself the effort of contacting them. For those who do, we wanted to know what type of document they want to see first: a log line, synopsis, step outline, treatment or the whole script?

Here is the outcome (click to enlarge):

(accurate as at December 2011)

This seems like a measly result, having started with 35 companies. To their defence, production companies are not fulfilling a public service and it is fair that they have other priorities than responding to queries.

On the other hand it would have benefited both the companies and the writers if there existed some clarity as to whether and what they want to achieve in terms of query submissions.

What is your experience? Can you add any info that may be relevant to fellow Australian screenwriters?

Creative Commons License photo credit: aaronkaiser

8 thoughts on “What Do (Australian) Producers Want?”

  1. Hey Karel. Great stuff as always. I haven’t been doing any new writing, but I haven’t given either of the two companies looking for horror a go with my screenplay. Might give them a crack. Thanks.
    Nigel Graves

  2. Two points…
    1) “No unsolicited material…’ The purpose of this is to deter amateur timewasters. Guess what? It works. The undeterred amongst us now move on to the next stage, which is to get our material solicited. That is, getting them to ask to read it.

    One example. A few years ago, I read in the trade press that a distribution company in Sydney was moving into production. So I emailed them, told them who I was, and asked them to read a writing sample. Which they did. I subsequently met up with them, and they commissioned me to write a treatment based on an idea of theirs. They also encouraged me to send them anything else I wrote, which is what I’ve been doing.

    If you phoned them today, I’m sure they’d say ‘no unsolicited material’.

    2) ‘Production companies are not providing a public service…’ Well, yes, but many of them are doing what they do with public money. The Australian film industry would not exist in its current form without the federal and state funding bodies, and without the Producer Offset.

    The funding bodies make it all but impossible for writers to approach them without a producer attached to the project. While I’m not against this in principle, in practice it often means producers working with writers they already know, rather than seeking out anyone new. In the States, a development executive who passed on someone who turned out to be the Next Big Thing would most likely be fired. In Australia, with the commercial imperative removed, this is an extra barrier that new writers have to overcome.

  3. Congratulations The Story Department / Karel Segers! You have received The Versatile Blogger Award for making me think outside the box. You have broadened my mind into applying screenwriting techniques to my novel / short story writing. There is some small print attached to this award, but it’s all in the name of good fun and connecting with other bloggers. Check it out here (scroll down to Update 2): http://www.zenashapter.com/blog/?p=3838

  4. I am researching the process of turning a true story into a film script. I am not a Script Writer, but I have researched and written ‘the story’ a personal (Australian) family history that encompasses all continents and many world wide major historical events. I therefore seek recommendation to one. Can you please set me in the right direction.
    Thank you

  5. Hi Karel,
    I was doing some enquiries online regarding the chances of my first novel just published, having a crack at being considered for a movie.
    Can you assist and how will fees and charges be part of the process.
    Your expertise and guidance will be highly appreciated.

  6. So if Australian producers are only interested in dramas and not fantasy or sci-fi, then what chance do I have in getting MY scripts accepted because they are fantasy.


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